NFU president Meurig Raymond has announced that he is to stand down as union president.
In an email to NFU council members, Mr Raymond said that he had decided not to seek re-election as NFU president in February 2018.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me, but it has become increasingly clear that the complex negotiations for the UK to leave the EU will go well beyond the next two years.
See also: Meurig Raymond elected NFU president
“I had always been clear that I would not want to serve as an officeholder beyond 2020 and so, for the sake of continuity and consistency throughout this critical period for British farming, I believe it is right that I should step back now rather than in 2020.”
Mr Raymond said the NFU was well-equipped to deal with the task at hand.
“Our thinking on Brexit is well-developed, we have built effective alliances across and beyond our own industry and the NFU has built up a significant reservoir of cross-party political support.
“We have successfully made the case for this most important of industries and moved food and farming up the political agenda while at the same time the NFU has made, and continues to make, a real difference for its members on so many fronts.”
Mr Raymond said the NFU’s work had only been possible because of the union’s excellent professional staff and members at every level of the organisation.
Members gave freely of their time to campaign on the wide variety of issues facing farming today, he added.
“As a critical link in the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, feeding the nation while providing excellent stewardship of the environment, we have a great story to tell.
“I am passionate about this industry and I look forward to working hard to represent our farmers and growers as NFU president over the next four months.
“I will continue to support and champion this great industry in whatever way I can in the coming years.”
Mr Raymond will have served 14 years as an NFU national office holder – including two two-year terms as president.
His decision to stand down paves the way for NFU deputy president Minette Batters to be elected the union’s first female leader.
But NFU vice-president Guy Smith could also stand for president and other candidates could emerge over the coming months.